Dead Run, Virginia, US
George Washington Parkway to Potomac River
||V (for normal flows)
I first ran this run back in 2002 which I am almost positive was the first decent, please correct
me if I am wrong.
This VA creek is the steepest in the greater Washington DC area. When caught at higher flows this
can throw more at you then any traditionally run lines at Great Falls. It is located just down
stream of the American Legion Beltway Bridge over the Potomac River. It drains the Langley and
Mclean area neighborhoods above Georgetown Pike which runs parallel to the George Washington
Parkway. There is no gradient to speak of above the GW Parkway so this is where the run begins with
a short but dramatic plunge to the Potomac with no portages.
The run is about a quarter mile long and drops about 160 feet, making for a very hefty fpm
gradient. This run is very prone to wood but there are most always alternative routes to navigate
with the choice of lines amongst the islands above and below the main drop. Obviously, the more
water the more choice in the lines.
There is one public entrance through the neighborhoods behind Langley High School for an upstream
put-in that requires a half mile hike in and some general knowledge of the trails to have a top to
bottom run. There could be a lot of other potential put-ins with much more convenient and less
trouble but they would require trespassing right through neighborhood backyards. And these are some
NICE neighborhoods with some BIG backyards where kayaks on top of peddler vehicles will easily get
some attention. So I recommend most to stick to the Maryland side and park at the Lock 10 C&O canal
parking lot on the Clara Barton Parkway just inside the beltway; and paddle up the channel and
ferry directly across the river to the delta of Dead Run.
When there are no leaves on the trees and Dead is running the cascading rapids off the hill side
are impossible to miss, but when there are leaves on the trees the delta is somewhat concealed.
This is the best way for a first run so that one can hike up the river right side (there are no
trails on either side) of the creek and scout on the way up. There are a few pools and good eddies
at lower flows but when it gets anywhere above a high medium the rapids quickly begin to mold
together and have even fewer micro-eddies. There is one major pool below the main drop that is
unmistakable. The rapids in order are: Truckin, Toothpick, Blow, The Real Garcia (the main drop),
"Truckin" is the first rapid that is a class III that can be run anywhere the level allows you.
"Toothpick" is a long manky class IV+ usually filled with wood pills, strainers, sieves, and a lot
of piton rocks that ends with a little ledge drop. There can be many alternative lines around the
three possible channels with higher flows. At lower flows, follow the water through the top to the
last ledge, at these levels there should be a pointy triangular rock that sticks up in the middle
of the drop, don't be enticed by the left line and just go right. The left is sieved out if it is
not already filled with wood.
"Blow", for those that are familiar, is like the center line down LeonardÂs Leap - the first rapid
down the VA side of Great Falls. This consists of a less then 10 ft drop down a left side slot with
all sides of the water folding in over itself. At higher flows it is a big boof down the right over
a sticky hole which you would definitely not want to swim out of seeing that this drop is only
yards above "The Real Garcia", with a tiny micro-eddy to the river right.
"The Real Garcia" is a clapper drop onto a 30 ft long 45 degree angle slide with a sticky hole at
the bottom. The ideal line is to stay as far inside the left corner as possible to line up down the
slide. This is very challenging with higher flows and the current pushing away from this corner
coming down stream from "Blow". The farther right you stay down this drop the higher the fall
becomes dropping onto the slide, with nasty corners jutting out from the right side wall. My third
run on Dead I came off of a 12 foot point and rolled over my cross stroke boof (being a C-1er) in
the air and cracked three ribs on the slide landing on my chest including a lung contusion and a
very tweaked left shoulder. At the bottom of the slide with higher flows the hole can be quite the
keeper and could make for a nasty swim as it quickly roles down just 20 yards later into
"Threesome". The pool at the bottom of "The Real Garcia" would probably be the best place to set
safety if not the only place on this run.
"Threesome" can really abuse you at lower flows as it is hard to get a quality boof off of and most
of it lands on rocks. Even at higher flows you are likely to hit something, just keep your bow up!
The best lines are mostly on the right. And be aware of the under cuts on both the right and left
side coming down the neck and the end of the rapid.
After this is just some good wood jammed, piney, class IV boogie mostly down the left side of the
creek bed for about 100 yards to the confluence into the Potomac. The water quality on this run is
not as bad as it looks, just a little street water and mud.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2008-03-20 07:08:18